October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a day to draw attention to the need for mental health care. The TI mental health team was recently in Nepal, where we followed up on church and community leaders equipped last year, and trained a new group of workers for Hope for Nepal, near the epicenter of last year’s earthquake.
We also met with another local organization called KOSHISH, and they shared this song (sung in Nepali, with English subtitles) from the point of view of someone with a severe mental illness:
“Do not hit me with stones, calling me mad. I have feelings like yours…
I did not ask for stars of the sky. I only ask for the right to live.”
People with mental illness suffer not only from the illness itself but also from rejection, isolation, and abuse. They may even be seen as cursed. But a mental illness is an illness. It can be treated. The first things we need are understanding and compassion.
Most people do not understand mental illness, and as a result are afraid of or prejudiced toward those who suffer from this illness. People think you can tell someone is mentally ill just by looking at their appearance or by their behavior. This is not always true. In fact, the majority of people with mental illness suffer from the common illnesses– stress, anxiety or depression. Any of us could have a mental illness and others would not know. The World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2012 that 1 of 20 people experienced an episode of depression in the previous year; more than 350 million are affected by depression.
Training for local service providers helps build a safety net where people who need mental health services can find help in the community. Many people can be helped at a low cost by equipping informal providers with basic training and counseling skills, and by connecting resources so people can be referred for more specialized care as needed.
Awareness and training decrease stigma and fear. One of the leaders trained last year said, “I learned people with mental illness aren’t animals. They are people and they have feelings. I will teach people not to throw stones at them.”